Barring a miracle, you're going to lose your ability to vote on Facebook privacy changes on Monday

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

You, and a billion other Facebook users, only have a few days left to take part in an important vote about how your personal data is used by Facebook.

After 12:00pm PST on Monday December 10th, 2012, it will be too late to cast your vote in the "Facebook Site Governance Vote".

Facebook vote

Facebook users are being asked to vote as to whether Facebook should stick with its current SRR (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities) and Data Use Policy, or roll-out a new version proposed by Facebook's management.

If you vote for Facebook's proposed new versions of these documents, then this is what you're agreeing to:

  • Facebook will no longer ask users to vote on governance changes. Instead, users will be allowed to submit questions to Facebook's chief privacy officer, and attend webcast discussions etc. In short, you've lost your chance to vote forever.
  • The proposed new data use policy would allow Facebook to use data from affiliates and advertising partners "to tell us information about you" and "improve the quality of ads."

    In all likelihood, this is part of Facebook's plan to build up a more precise picture of its many users, helping it target advertising more effectively, and using data not only from its own site but those it has recently acquired such as Instagram.

  • New filtering tools for managing your incoming messages on Facebook.
  • Changes to the way Facebook refers to some of its products.
  • Facebook to be clearer about who can see what on users' timelines and the news feed.
  • Facebook to provide tips on how to manage your timeline.

Some of these proposals from Facebook are definitely not controversial, and might even be a good thing, but the first two changes (losing the right to vote, and Facebook sharing data with its affiliates and partners) definitely are ringing alarm bells for some.

And that's why so far many more people have voted against Facebook's proposed changes, and to keep the existing SRR and Data Use Policy instead.

Facebook vote results so far

Although it looks like one side has already won.. it hasn't.

Facebook only considers the vote to be binding if a staggering 30% of its active users choose to vote.

At the time of writing, a mere 178,646 people have voted against Facebook's proposed changes. Assuming Facebook has a billion users, that's less than 0.018%.

So even though the overwhelming majority of those people who have voted, have voted against Facebook's proposal.. it isn't worth diddly-squat unless the magic 30% threshold is reached.

(By the way, this isn't even considering that Facebook itself acknowledges it has some 83 million fake accounts on its social network - one wonders if they are considered "active" or not).

Facebook is sending out emails at the moment, reminding users of their ability to vote. There's an example of such an email pictured below (click on it for a larger version).

Facebook vote email. Click for larger version

Facebook previously sent out an email inviting comments, just hours before the US Thanksgiving holiday - as we reported at the time, some folks incorrectly believed the email was fake.

Don't be too despondent if you feel that your side might not win the vote, you still have time to be have your voice heard and cast your vote.

Facebook voteBut remember. Barring a miracle, it may be the last time you're ever given the opportunity to vote on changes to Facebook. Make the most if it.

Like Facebook says - it's your choice, your vote.

If you are on Facebook and want to keep yourself informed about the latest news from the world of internet security and privacy, join the Sophos Facebook page where more than 200,000 people regularly discuss these issues and best practice.

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31 Responses to Barring a miracle, you're going to lose your ability to vote on Facebook privacy changes on Monday

  1. The voting page is down, so it seems I can't vote anyway.

    • Some people have reported receiving error messages, but it then working if they try again.

      Obviously you need to be logged into Facebook, etc..

    • Maureen · 634 days ago

      I wasn't able to vote using Firefox or Chrome, but it worked when I used Internet Explorer (of all things). Try another browser.

    • Deb Freele · 631 days ago

      The voting page is back up until the 10th.

  2. ThatITGuy · 635 days ago

    Yup. Glad I left FB over a year ago. Have fun as they continue to trample over your Privacy in the process of selling your PII.

  3. Nigel · 635 days ago

    In August 2012, Facebook claimed that 83M of its alleged 955M users were fake, according to a Sophos NakedSecurity article at that time. So, assuming 872M real users, 30% of that would be 26.16M users who would have to vote over the next 6 days (518,400 seconds). That means just over 50 users per second would have to vote just to make the 30% quorum, neglecting the relatively trivial 0.0002 (decimal fraction) who already have voted.

    That would take one helluva mobilization among a universe of users who aren’t exactly noted for their keen awareness of Facebook’s concerted abuse of their privacy in the first place. So, I’d have to agree, Graham; barring a non-theological miracle in which an unlikely proportion of Facebook users suddenly develop an awareness they probably don’t possess, the last remnants of Facebook’s sham democracy will evaporate come Monday.

    Of course, it’s Facebook’s turf, and they’ve always been able to make whatever rules they want , regardless of users’ wishes. Facebook can’t compel anyone to have or use an account. So really all this does is make it just a bit more blatantly obvious that they’re going to do whatever they want anyway. Given the fact that so many Facebook users already are willing to compromise their privacy, it doesn’t seem likely that many of them will care.

  4. They''re not taking away the ability to vote.

    If anyone read the entire document they would know they're doing away with the current system because its inaccurate. A new voting system is currently being developed and Facebook users will be able to vote again once the new system is online.

    • I think that you are mistaken.

      Check out Facebook's official position on the end of voting at https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-site-gove... which confirms what I wrote in the article - in short, votes will be replaced with Q&A's with the head of Facebook Privacy.

      If you have a conflicting reference where Facebook says differently, please share it with us!

  5. Diane Garfield · 635 days ago

    You can't get the voting software to work - even if you're already logged into Facebook, it asks you to log in again but clicking the Login blue bar does nothing. All very odd/suspicious/confusing - take your pick.

    • Amalteia · 635 days ago

      I had the same problem, but as soon as I used a windows machine with IE, I was able to vote. It's almost at the 300k at the moment.

    • Had the same problem, and turning off Ghostery worked for me. Try with whatever your anti-cookie/tracker is.

  6. Johnnythendean · 635 days ago

    I do not understand what kind of changes would fb do! I ask, do not complicate the networks we use this! I trust you will give us the best, I could not resist change as if it was new! I certainly hope to enjoy the ease of uploading photos and others. please keep our personal data. Thankyou

  7. dci · 635 days ago

    Switching browsers got the voting page to work for me. 'Let's make the code buggy so no-one can vote' .... no, that conversation didn't happen .... did it???

  8. Joey_Nova · 635 days ago

    I'm getting the same. Sneaky tactic if you ask me.

  9. claire · 635 days ago

    I just voted and when I checked my sharing preferences on the 'share with friends' pop up it was set to 'only me'. Is this happening to everyone do you know? Seems like thats a good reason why so few have voted.

  10. Leanne · 634 days ago

    No problems voting you just have to follow the directions to the page. Well that's my story. If you join a internet programme you do give up some rights however I do not wish to share with the world. I maintain some rights on my own computer by cleaning it regularly. If this new system becomes a part of facebook you loose that right. They choose to share your browsing.

  11. It seems that a lot of people's cats will have to vote to get to that 30%.

  12. Katherine Coutanche · 634 days ago

    When you vote, you are offered the option of sharing that fact on your page. However, my visibility settings were automatically changed for that one status update to 'Only me' I only noticed because I scrolled down to look at something else. Sneaky and underhand.

  13. Mark · 634 days ago

    Wow, up until this minute I didn't realize it was real. I assumed any email from someone purporting to be Facebook and asking me to click on embedded links would be a scam and simply deleted them. It never occured to me that Facebook would emulate the look and feel of a spam email with a legitimate one.

  14. Freida Gray · 634 days ago

    So,Facebook needs 30% of their users to "vote" about whether or not to change the SRR & the voting process.Why do we have the Timeline then when 50% of the users voted against it?The only response Facebook gave to that was"give it a chance" then forced Timeline on everybody.Why would this be any different?

  15. You know it's going to happen regardless. Whenever has Farcebook ever cared about its users?

  16. SandroS · 634 days ago

    How would they make 300 millions to vote ????? No go !! No chance !!!

  17. Facebook should be able to do what they want with their product that they provide for free.

  18. Patricia · 634 days ago

    I tried several times to vote on the Facebook site, but despite the fact that I was already logged in (my Facebook ID appeared quite clearly at the top of the page), I was each time told I need to log into Facebook before I could do so. Makes me think this vote is rigged anyway. How to overcome this? It is a disgrace!!

  19. Gavin · 634 days ago

    I loved Nigel's quantitative post and level-headed analysis above. He hit the nail right on the head, though unfortunately slipped a decimal point while doing so. Thus the situation is 10x bleaker than even he surmised:

    30% of 872M users is 261.6M. We now have less than 5 days (432,000 seconds) to reach that number, suggesting that even given a secular miracle in account-holders' assembled privacy awareness, Facebook's servers must be able to handle 605 votes per second every second for the next 5 days, assuming perfect congestion control and evenness of load.

    Unfortunately I suspect that an ad hoc DDOS resulting from an 11th hour voting frenzy will not count in lieu of the 30% figure Facebook's management are looking for.

    Oh well. :)

  20. Mike · 634 days ago

    I just voted to keep the current policies and the count for the "existing" side is at 340,178 as of 10:30 AM EST on December 6.

    This looks hopeless, as many people as possible need to vote. If you haven't voted, vote to keep the existing policy. If your friends haven't voted, tell them to vote to keep the existing policy.

    If the new policy gets passed, I am done and will be fully deleting my facebook profile for good on December 11th. You all should think about doing the same...

  21. spryte · 634 days ago

    Voting page does not work at all for me.
    I have tried all the workarounds, except using IE, with no luck.

    I have reported the app has to fb as not working.
    <sarcasm> Do you think that will help? </sarcasm>

  22. I vote against the new proposal.

  23. Rory · 632 days ago

    Change privacy policy I am out of here

  24. Michelle · 632 days ago

    Two of my friends were able to vote in the last day or so. I cannot vote tonight. When I click on the link https://apps.facebook.com/fbsitegovernance/ I get an error message which says:

    Safari can't verify the identity of the website "fbsitegovernance.thuzi.com"

    The certificate for this website was signed by an unknown certifying authority. . ." etc.

    Anyone know anything? I took a snapshot of the page with the error and I mentioned the problem in the comments. Unfortunately, it will get buried. Let's hope this gets fixed so we can vote.

    ...

    BTW, to those who keep saying that we should leave Facebook: It's not that simple. Many of us need an account because we work for organizations which use Facebook. Some of us also have friends and relatives who will not call, email, use Google+ or write letters to be sent by the Post Office. In other words, quitting is unrealistic for a lot of us.

  25. Rachel · 632 days ago

    Well they kept that one quiet ! Don't know why they even bother with a vote, will do what they want anyway regardless just like governments, most people are ignorant to it all and the ones that know and take time to find out are in the minority it seems, so again it's a no win,more freedoms and rights are taken from us and we willingly let it happen. So if you don't like it don't have a fb account I recon is the way.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.